Gas stoves are one of the most common appliances in family kitchens. Unfortunately, research shows that emissions from gas stoves can threaten indoor air quality while contributing to climate change. Here’s what you need to know the next time you’re in the market for a new stove and, maybe more importantly, what you can do to reduce emissions from a gas stove if you have one.
First of all, let me say that I’ve got a gas stove and, until relatively recently, cooked pretty much everything either on the range or in the oven. But in the last couple of years, I learned four important things about natural gas that made me rethink my stove.
The first pertained to how natural gas is produced, which is mainly from fracking, a polluting process that poisons our air and water and is particularly dangerous to kids. As Moms Clean Air Force has reported extensively, fracking chemicals can harm children’s brains, put pregnant moms and babies at risk, and expose children to cancer-causing toxins. If I could use the stove less, I wanted to.
The second was that despite its dubious reputation as a “clean” fuel, natural gas contributes significantly to climate change. In fact, gas-powered appliances generally “produce a really significant amount of both greenhouse gas pollution and other kinds of air pollution,” Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) Denise Grab told Fast Company. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a particularly potent greenhouse gas because it traps far more heat than does carbon dioxide. Plus, natural gas is far more polluting than clean energy like solar and wind. “Natural gas production and usage in producing power, making fertilizer, heating our homes and cooking our food now send more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than coal,” reports Environmental Health News
Third, I learned that gas stoves can emit excessive nitrogen dioxide (NO2), at levels often exceeding both indoor guidelines and outdoor standards. The health effects of NO2 in children, says the nonprofit RMI, may include IQ and learning deficits, increased susceptibility to lung infections, increased risk of childhood asthma, coughing, heart stress, and increased susceptibility to allergens.
And fourth was that no federal agencies monitor the pollutants that gas stoves emit. Was I breathing in too many? There was no way to know.
How to Reduce Pollutants From Your Gas Stove
I learned enough to decide that, when it is time for me to replace my stove, I will choose an all-electric or an induction model. Until then, here’s what I do that might help you too:
- Exhaust Fan—I always turn on the exhaust fan above my range. The fan is vented to the outdoors so it sucks pollutants up and away.
- Open Windows—Weather permitting, I’ll open a few windows when I’m cooking to increase fresh air into my kitchen that moves tainted air out.
- Electric Slow Cooker—I’ve switched to using an electric slow cooker (like a Crock Pot or an InstaPot or a rice cooker) for making soups, stews, sauces, rice, pasta, yogurt, and more. Some people even bake and fry in their slow cookers. In addition to improving my indoor air quality, I have found slow cookers make much less mess than cooking on my stovetop does.
- Electric Toaster Oven—In addition to a slow cooker, I have a toaster oven that is big enough for casseroles, a 10-inch pie, a rimmed tray on which I can roast chicken, fish and vegetables, and a cookie sheet big enough to make 12 cookies at a time.
- Electric Kettle—I make tea and coffee several times a day, so switching to an electric kettle was a no-brainer.
When I do decide to replace my stove, I’m going to research both electric and induction options. While it still may be possible to buy a gas stove, I’m going to take my cues from Energy Star, EPA’s program that sets energy efficiency standards for a wide variety of common appliances. Though Energy Star has no ratings for residential ovens or ranges, the program has decided that gas water heaters, furnaces, and dryers will no longer be eligible to be listed on their “Most Efficient” list. That implies to me that gas stoves wouldn’t be either.
Here’s the list of appliances that did make Energy Star’s most efficient list.